Kissing the Queen – Ivanchuk's new chess game

4/1/2009 – Capablanca brought us a 10x8 version of chess; Bobby gave us Fischer Random; Yasser Seirawan has one with two new pieces. Famous players tend to do this at the end of their active careers. But Vassily Ivanchuk has just turned forty, and is at the hight of his chess powers. His is easily the raciest of all the chess variants we know. He explains it in an article and a remarkable three-part video interview.

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Vassily Ivanchuk invents a new game

"It seems to be part of the natural life-cycle of a Grandmaster!", laughed John Nunn, as we sat in the Press Room of the 2008 NH Hotels tournament in Amsterdam. Yasser Seirawan had just explained to us his new version of chess, which features two extra pieces, the Hawk and the Elephant. Doctor Nunn was sceptical. "It is really quite typical: you grow up, learn chess, become a GM, win lots of tournaments, get old, cease to able to play at top level, retire, and then invent a new version of the game! First Capablanca, then Fischer, now Yasser..!." And now Ivanchuk, we might add. Except, of course, that the latter is far from old, and is still an active GM, rated number five in the world (on the January list). Well, Vassily has always done things differently from other GMs.

Yes, Ivanchuk has invented a new form of chess. And psychologists would probably draw some interesting conclusions. Reuben Fine, in his infamous pamphlet “The Psychology of the Chess Player,” claimed that Emanuel Lasker's liking for early queen exchanges was a sign of a deep-rooted misogyny, a desire to "simplify life" by eliminating women. But no such claims can be made of Ivanchuk, it seems, because in "Kiss the Queen", as Chucky calls his new game, the queen cannot be taken! Losing your queen means losing the game. In Ivanchuk's world, then, life cannot exist without women.

The following is a three-part video interview taped by GM Robert Fontaine for the French chess web site Europe Echecs. In the first part the Ukrainian GM explains the intention and the basic rules of the game.


Part one of the video interview – Vassily Ivanchuk introduces his new game

Capablanca had a similar idea, Ivanchuk says in this video, but he needed a bigger board (10 x 8) and two additional pieces, an elephant and a Janus. The reason he proposed the new games was because he was worried about what he believed was the inevitable draw outcome of chess. Fischer, who proposed random chess, was concerned with too much openings theory.

Ivanchuk says he is trying to create something that is normal chess, which is of course the best of games, but with a slight change. His version is purely for for entertainment. In the video he explains the basic rules of his game:

  • The initial position is the same, the moves are all the same as in normal chess;
  • Pawns can be promoted as in normal chess, but not into queens;
  • The queen cannot be taken or sacrificed, that would end the game. An attack on the queen must be treated like a check – it cannot be ignored, and the queen cannot be allowed to be taken.

Around three minutes into the above video Ivanchuk sets up a position to explain:

Here if White plays 1.Nc6, attacking the black queen, Black cannot ignore the attack and play 1…Ng3 mate (just as you cannot ignore a check, even if you have a mate in one).

The rules of the game

In an article Ivanchuk sent us (it was published on ChessPro in Russian), Ivanchuk goes about things much more methodically, using a large number of diagrams to illustrate the principles of his game. He starts off with the position after the moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Qxd4 Nc6

Any good player, in normal chess, would immediately play 5.Bb5. But this move is illegal, since the white queen is under attack and must be moved. Similarly after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 d6 4.d4 cxd4

5.Qxd4 is of course also illegal, because the queen would be moving onto a square that is under attack (even though it is by a pinned piece). You are not allowed to put your queen into check, even if you can deliver mate. Here’s an example to illustrated this:

White may not play 1.b2-b3 mate, since that would be exposing his queen to an attack by the black bishop (it is just like if the white king was on a1 in regular chess). Here’s another illustrative example:

In normal chess you would be able to deliver checkmate with 1.Ne6 or 1.Nc6. But since his queen is under attack White has to attend to that first.

Let us take a look at the famous Scholar's Mate: 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nc6 3.Qf3 Bc5??

Is it possible, in Ivanchuk’s game, to play 4.Qxf7 and deliver mate? Yes, it is possible and legal, since the queen is attaching the enemy king on a protected square and is not under attack by another black piece on that square.

As in conventional chess, checkmating the enemy king means you have won the game. But you can also win by checkmating the enemy queen! For example after the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Be7??

White can deliver mate with 5.Ne6!! The white knight is attacked the black queen, which has nowhere to go. Taking the knight with 5...dxe6 is an illegal move, since it would expose the black queen to an attack by her white counterpart. Naturally Black can’t play 5 ... Bb4 + either, since it is against the rules to leave the queen under attack, even in order to give a check or deliver mate.

Another example: 1.e4 f6 2.Nf3 Nh6 3.Bb5 Nf7 4.Nd4 a6??

Here White can play 5.Ne6!!, delivering mate, because the queen is attacked and the d-pawn pinned – as in regular chess you may not expose your king to the attack of the enemy king.

Check and harem mate

So there are two ways of ending the game with checkmate: either the king is under attack and cannot do anything about it, or it is the queen that cannot escape an enemy attack (as in the last two examples). Ivanchuk proposes calling the latter a "harem" mate, since an enemy has penetrated the sanctuary of the queen.

One should remember that, just as in conventional chess, the king is not actually taken – the game ends just before the king will inevitably be captured. In Ivanchuk’s game this also applies to the queen. So both king and queen will always be present on the board at the end of a game.

Ivanchuk gives us further illustrative examples: a knight fork, e.g. from the square c3, on the king and queen, e.g. on the squares e2 and e4, immediately ends the game, since the opponent cannot move both attacked pieces out of the attack. Or take the following position:

1.Re1+ wins the game for White, as moving the black king exposes the black queen to attack. Similarly in the postion:

Here again 1.Re1 wins the game for White, since moving the black queen exposes the black king to attack. In addition the black queen cannot take the white rook, since it is protected by the white queen on a5.

Kiss the Queen

So far, so good. We have tried a few games with the above rules, and found them interesting – verging on the enjoyable. This variant has the advantage that it can be explained in less than a minute, after which one can already start playing. The games can, as far as we can see, be recorded and stored in regular chess programs like ChessBase, Fritz, and also be played on chess servers like Playchess.com – although the kibitzers will be howling in pain if they don’t know that different rules are being used. We urge our readers to try out the game as described above and tell us what they think.

But there is more. Undaunted readers can watch the last section of the first video (starting at around 3:30 min) and then proceed to part two, where he gives further examples. You will soon understand why he has given his game the name: "Kiss the Queen".


Part two of the Europe Echecs video interview – Ivanchuk explains the kissing rule

Here are the additional rules Ivanchuk has devised:

  1. If a queen has none of its own pieces standing on an adjacent square, the queen is said to be stripped or "naked".
  2. If the queen is naked, an enemy piece, even the king, may approach her, thereby kissing her and winning the game at once.

For example, in the following position, with Black to move:

Black wins immediately by playing 1...Kd6, 1…Ke6 or 1…Kd6. As you can see in this special case even the king can approach the queen to deliver the "kiss of death".

A kiss and queen mate is also possible if the queen has her “husband” (the king) standing next to her. In that case, according to Ivanchuk, she is still unclothed, and kissing her with an enemy piece (i.e. moving it to an adjacent square) leads to immediate victory. But there is one important exception: the enemy king cannot do it, since that “would provoke an unnecessary scene of jealousy by his brother and would be a clear breach of royal etiquette; therefore, it is strictly, strictly prohibited by the rules of the game” (Ivanchuk’s words).

Let us try to understand all of that quite dispassionately:

Here, 1...Kc1 or 1...Kc2 are both illegal, due to the presence of the white king on a square adjacent to the queen. But 1...Bc2! (“kiss”) brings immediate victory for Black, “because, as in real life, what is forbidden to kings is allowed to people of lower rank.” Note that in the diagram position 1...Qg1+?? loses immediately because of the murderous 2.Kf1!! (kiss).

It gets hotter: “Let me remind you,” Ivanchuk says, “that a kiss only brings victory when the queen is not dressed. Touching her with any piece when she is dressed is not a victory, although it is allowed and legal. However, approaching a dressed queen with the enemy king is an illegal move. On the other hand it is possible to remove her last item of clothing while delivering the kiss, as in the following example: 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.Qxd4 Nf6 4.Nf3??

Here Black can play 4…Nxe4!! 0-1. This kind of mating kiss can also be delivered by the king, as in the following example:

White can play 1.Kxe5, stripping the last cover of the queen and delivering mate. Another example:

Here a serious mistake on the part of White would be 1.Qd5+??, because of the response 1...Kxe4!! 0-1. Another very interesting example is the position:

Black to move. The black king is in check by the queen, which is “dressed” by the pawn on a5. Black can strip off this loincloth with the move 1...Rxa5!! with kiss and win. Remember: you can do this when the king is in check if the king himself is administering the kiss, after another piece has stripped away the final cover. If in the above position the black king were on b8, d8 or f6, the move 1...Rxa5 would be illegal since the Black must move his king out of check.”

Addendum

The last four examples and the explanations are original Ivanchuk. There are more examples in the Russian article on ChessPro, but Vassily sent us some in addition to those, stressing that it was important to include them in our article, in order to avoid misunderstandings.

Ivanchuk: “Here 1.Qf5! checkmate is possible because only the black king will be attacking the white queen, which is protected by the knight on g3. In this position White can also win immediately with 1.Qe2+ or 1. Qe3+ but not with 1.Qe4+??, which is a terrible blunder: 1...Ke5! and Black wins by kiss!”

Another example:

Here White can play 1.Qe4+ and black will respond 1... Be5! (note that this is the only legal move in the position!). Without the black bishop on f6 1.Qe4+?? simply loses the game because of 1...Ke5! Now there is no mate on the board, because the black king has an empty (flight) square on f6!

Ivanchuk sets up the following position at around 2.35 minutes into the second video:

White to move, with his king in check! 1.Kxe5 is an illegal move, because when a king is trying to kiss a queen he can ignore check, but he cannot ignore checkmate! So, 1.Kf5! Now White is two pieces down and should be lost, of course. But if Black give any check here, he will lose immediately! Let us see: 1…Qf3+ 2.Kg4! kiss; 1...Qd7+ 2.Ke6! kiss; 1...Qf7+ 2.Ke6! or 2.Kg6! kiss; 1...Bc8+ 2.Kxe5! kiss (there is not mate anymore!); 1...Ng3+ 2.Kxe5! kiss; 1...Ng7+ 2.Kxe5! kiss; 1...e4+ 2.Kxe4! kiss. The white pawn on c2 is very important, to prevent 1...Qd3+ 2.Kxe5? Qd5! checkmate (mate has priority over the kiss).

Another example, which you can see in the second video above, starting around 3:10 min). Ivanchuk executes the moves1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 Qxd5 4.Bb5?

Here 4…Qxb5! is possible and strong, while the move 4...cxb5 is illegal: the black queen cannot undress in such a situation, because the white pawn on d4 would be kissing her. It is possible undress the queen in as similar situation, but only for mate!

This position is explained at around 2:10 minutes into the second video. Black to move can play 1...Nd2 mate, even though the white pawn is touching the black queen. This is because mate is stronger than kiss!

The Kiss the Queen match Fontaine-Ivanchuk

After you have studied the above rules thoroughly you will perhaps be able to enjoy part three of video interview with Vassily Ivanchuk. In it Robert Fontaine, the intrepid Europe Echec reporter, actually plays a game against its inventor. We hope you will be able to follow all of it.

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